Professor teaching class

Advice to Faculty

Response Reguarding A Student Death
Student death and tragedy impact the entire campus community. When a student dies, the effects of the death frequently make their way into the classroom, particularly in classes where the student was a member, or in classes where friends of the student are present. Regardless of whether or not class members knew the student, the effects of the loss may be felt in many classrooms across campus.

Below are suggestions for what you, as a faculty member, can do to help students in your classroom. Be aware that there is no “right” way to respond to loss and each person deals with loss differently. Different reactions occur based on religious beliefs, personal experience, and an individual’s own emotional state prior to the event.

Keep yourself informed and get the facts. Some students may not have heard about the death or recent tragedy, while others may be in a state of shock or confusion. Be prepared to make students aware of the news and be ready to dispel any rumors or confusion that may surface.

Plan your class response in reference to the impact on students. Deaths that directly affect class members are unexpected, are on campus, or that follow other recent tragic events can be particularly traumatic and may require more in-class attention. In that case, consider consulting with the Counseling & Testing Center (CTC) prior to your class for suggestions. If you like, someone from the CTC can come to the first class meeting to facilitate a brief discussion.

You may chose to provide students with some information about the variety of different responses to grief, loss or tragedy, emphasizing that no response is wrong and many different feelings may surface. Consider bringing written information on grief, trauma, loss and campus resources to class for students to take if they wish. This can include telephone numbers, pamphlets, brochures, etc. The CTC has a number of materials that may be helpful which are available in our office, and many can be found on our website at

It is helpful to provide information to students about resources available on campus to help them. These include the Counseling & Testing Center, Dean of Students Office, and Tutoring and Academic Assistance Programs.

If the death was a student suicide, try not to glamorize it with your in-class response. You may wish to emphasize that there are multiple reasons and contributing factors which contribute to someone committing suicide.

Try to return the class to a normal schedule as quickly as possible. Reestablishing a normal schedule can be a great comfort to you and your students. Be aware, however, that the effects of the tragedy can remain (and possibly affect class functioning) for an extended period of time. Students who are directly affected by the tragedy may need to ask for extra time to complete assignments, delay exams, attend memorial events, etc.

Identify students you feel are particularly at risk because of their relationship to the event. If possible, talk individually and privately with any student about whom you are concerned. Observe any noticeable shifts in students’ appearance, behavior, effort, and academic performance – marked changes may indicate a greater impact and that a student may benefit from additional, and perhaps professional, assistance. Do not be afraid to refer a student you are concerned about to the CTC.

If the tragedy involves the loss of a student in your class who was well-known by class members, consider giving yourself and your class the opportunity to express condolences to the family of the student. Consider sending a card from the class as a whole or allowing students to write individual notes to the family which you gather and send. Please consult with the Dean of Students about these responses to be certain they fall within the family’s wishes.